I’m a lucky man.
I love learning. Learning in school came easy to me: how letters formed words, words formed sentences, sentences created ideas, and ideas spurred action; the manner in which numbers tumble together into equations, which can express beauties and concepts far beyond the ability of mere words; the stories of various histories and cultures, which express, in no uncertain terms, the kindness, the cruelty, the intelligence, the stupidity – the very nature – of man.
OK, so I was terrible at remembering dates. Sue me.
I went to college, but mainly for the wrong reason – to pursue the affections of a fair young maiden who was ready to take off into the world … even if that world didn’t include me. But even though I attended for the wrong reason, there was a great deal to be learned at college; not just from the schoolbooks and professors, but from the other students as well. I learned that it’s people who provide the true education in life. I had enrolled in the college of education (see again aforementioned fair young maiden), but I had the opportunity to study so many other things: psychology, journalism, radio and broadcasting, theater, and experience first hand the cultures of others. It was a wonderful time.
My final semester came along, which consisted solely of student teaching. I got a nice placement, because the high school was looking, in particular, someone with a bit of debating experience to help them with their national level debate team, and I fit the bill. It was fun and successful, but I learned one important fact: I had neither the drive nor the maturity to be an effective teacher. After graduation, I joined the Marine Corps. It’s easier than teaching.
Trust me on this.
I found another education waiting for me there. For the first time, I was tossed in with, and had to form relationships with, people of different of different classes than myself. Not trying to sound snobbish, because I grew up up in the lower end of the middle class scale, but now I was dealing with such a diversity of people: from those who spoke of ‘pahty’ training ( read as ‘party’), to those who were accustomed to going days without a substantial meal. I mixed with those from Texas, and New England, Tennessee and Georgia, from country to inner city, and I often had trouble understanding some of these people.
It’s amazing the number of ways Americans can mangle the English language.
Yet, each and every one of these people had something valuable to teach – if one was willing to take the time to learn. It wasn’t the Marine Corps which taught me leadership principles and traits, or the importance of teamwork, or even that all relationships, whether of a personal or professional nature, are based on mutual understanding and trust.
It was people.
I have generations of people who took the time to teach me. A master photographer, who was willing to take a young photographer into his studio and teach him the finer points of the trade; a master mechanic who opened his shop and his knowledge to someone with a hunger to learn how things worked, and a slew of masterful writers who took the time to demonstrate, critique, and encourage someone with a love of words. There have been many more – too many people in too many trades to mention.
Thank you all.
The fair maiden? I managed to convince her the world would be a much nicer place if she included me in hers. Thirty-four years later, I’ve heard no complaint, and I’ve been especially blessed with two more teachers – a supporting wife and an amazing son – who have both taught me some of the most important lessons ever: lessons on living, loving and, more importantly, lessons about myself.
Told you I was lucky.
The title of this post comes from a book, “The Independent Scholar”, which was pivotal in teaching me that not all educations come from the classroom, nor require a degree: merely a desire to learn and a willingness to seek the educational opportunities life provides. Knowledge leads to understanding, understanding leads to wisdom, and wisdom is one of the pillars of a happy and successful life…
… but not the only one